Heading into last Sunday, the Memphis Grizzlies had gone 2-3 in their last 5 games. They were about to embark on a 3 game Western road trip that included games at the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors. While only the Warriors are playoff contenders, all three of those places are among the loudest and toughest places to play for road teams in the NBA. Many thought the Grizzlies would struggle and fall further behind the San Antonio Spurs in the Southwest division.
That didn’t happen as the Grizzlies would win all three games 92-81 over Phoenix, 113-81 over Sacramento, and 94-87 over Golden St Wednesday night. The rout over the Kings was the biggest road win in Grizzlies history and might have chased the Kings out of Sacramento. The next day rumors began circulating that the Maloof family might sell the Kings to a group from Seattle who plans to relocate the franchise. It is no secret why the Grizzlies did well on the road trip. In the previous 5 games, they were only averaging 87 points a game, including 3 games where they scored 84 points or less. In the 3 game road trip the Grizzlies averaged 100 points per game.
Now the 23-10 Grizzlies return home for one game to face the 28-10 Spurs. The Spurs are 2.5 games up on the Grizzlies in the Southwest Division. The Spurs have gone 2-2 in their last 4 games after a 7 game winning streak. The Spurs have lost 6 of their last 8 road games. The Spurs beat a shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers team in San Antonio Wednesday night 108-105.
San Antonio has beaten Memphis 5 straight times, including 99-95 in overtime December 1 in San Antonio. The two teams will play again in San Antonio next Wednesday. They will complete the season series April 1 in Memphis.
San Antonio is coached by Gregg Popovich. The Spurs are outscoring teams 105-97 this season. San Antonio is #3 in scoring and #14 in points allowed. The Spurs are shooting 48.4% from the field and 38.8% from 3 point range. San Antonio is #2 in shooting and #3 in three point shooting. The Spurs are #4 in free throw shooting at 79.5% from the line. San Antonio averages 41.8 rebounds per game and give up 42.4 per game. San Antonio is shooting 44.1% from the field and 32.7% from 3 point range. The Spurs are #11 in opponents’ field goal percentage and #2 in 3 point defense. The Spurs average 25.2 assists, 8.7 steals, 5.2 blocks and 15.3 turnovers per game.
Spurs’ point guard Tony Parker averages 19.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per game. Forward Tim Duncan averages 17.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 2.6 steals. Guard Manu Ginobli averages 12.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Guard Gary Neal averages 10.8 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists. Guard Danny Green averages 9.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.1 steals per game. Forward Tiago Splitter averages 9.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game. Forward Kawhi Leonard averages 9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. Stephen Jackson, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner, and Nando de Colo also get significant minutes in the rotation.
The Grizzlies are coached by Lionel Hollins. Memphis is outscoring teams 95-89 this season. They are first in the league in points allowed and are #24 in scoring. The Grizzlies are shooting 43.9% from the field and 35% from 3 point range. The Grizzlies are #19 in field goal percentage and #16 in three point shooting. Memphis is #2 in the league in free throw shooting at 80.4% from the line. The Grizzlies average 43.1 rebounds per game and give up 38.8. Memphis is #1 in rebounds allowed and #11 in rebounding. Grizzlies’ opponents are shooting 43.1% from the field and 33.7% from 3 point range. Memphis is in the top 10 in the league in both categories. The Grizzlies average 21.2 assists, 9.5 steals, 5.4 blocks and 15 turnovers a game.
Small forward Rudy Gay averages 17.8 points per game, 5.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals a game. Forward Zach Randolph averages 16.9 points, 12 rebounds to lead the team, and 1.3 assists per game. Randolph is second in the league in rebounding. Both Gay and Randolph have been the subject of trade rumors despite the great start of the Grizzlies. Center Marc Gasol averages 13.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.1 steal and 1.9 blocks per game to lead the team. He is probable with a finger injury. Point guard Mike Conley, Jr. averages 13.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 2.4 steals a game to lead the team in the latter two categories. Tony Allen starts at shooting guard and is one of the best defenders in the league. Allen averages 7.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game. Forward Marreese Speights, point guard Jerryd Bayless, forward Quincy Pondexter, Guard Wayne Ellington and forward Darrell Arthur make up the rest of the rotation. Pondexter is out indefinitely with a grade 2 MCL sprain.
Eight of the ten losses for the Spurs this season have come on the road. Memphis is one of the the best home teams in the league. The Grizzlies need to continue their hot shooting from the road trip. If they do that I think the Grizzlies can pull closer to the Spurs with a win.